Thursday evening, August 6, 2015, was an anticipated night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. FOX News, serving as the moderating host with Megyn Kelly, Brett Baier and Chris Wallace, was set to reveal an epic showcase of seventeen Republican candidates running for the highest office in the land in what became a battle royal more akin to a professional wrestling, Pay-Per-View event than a traditional presidential primary. The very first question posed to Donald Trump was from Megyn Kelly; “You’ve called women you don't like, ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals’. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” To the surprise of some (me, not one of them), the audience in the arena cheered and hollered versus yielding boos and heckles. Trump responded with a thinly veiled threat to Kelly; “If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably, maybe, not be, based on the way you’ve treated me, but I wouldn’t do that”. Of course, that statement was a lie. Trump’s threat to Megyn Kelly came to fruition when he called into Don Lemon’s show on CNN the following evening, declaring, “I have no respect for her (Kelly)… you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her ‘wherever’…” According to The Donald, Kelly’s debate question was the product of her menstrual cycle rather than Trump’s past choices to bombastically insult women he didn’t like.
Despite Trump's support among Republican voters, there has been a consorted effort within the party, made up of Trump’s supporters and detractors, to rebrand his message and aesthetic as antithetical to conservatism and the true character of the GOP. The problem with this worldview is that Donald Trump won his party’s nomination with 45% of all votes cast in the Republican Primary, only 2% lower than Senator John McCain’s portion in his 2008 primary win. It’s also important to note that 90% of Republican voters support Trump now that he is the nominee. In the wake of the new audio of Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault by how he can “grab her (women) by the p***y”, it’s conceivable that number could drop, but most pundits don’t see it dipping anywhere lower than 80%. The Republican establishment (what’s left of it), along with even more radical hard-liners have been spinning like music box ballerinas to fasten an asterisk next to Trump’s name within the GOP. They would have us believe that Trump is an aberration who hijacked their party versus a democratically elected Republican candidate for president. Unfortunately for their strategy, he is the latter.
Donald Trump is no exception to Republicanism. The faux-shock and awe of Republicans to Trump’s demonstratively deplorable behavior and positioning is something we should take note of and prosecute. For decades, the GOP has courted factions of hate into the party, from the anti-LGBT and anti-choice Christian Right to white nationalists like David Duke, who’s running as a Republican for Louisiana’s open Senate seat, to the birther driven Tea Party. The legislative ambition of this increasingly unbecoming tent is no rogue chapter in American history either. The legacy of the post-Eisenhower Republican Party is fundamentally consistent with everything that is Donald Trump. From the hard right beeline towards embracing southern segregation in the 1960s to the intentional and deliberate neglect of the AIDS crisis during the 1980s, the Republican Party set itself up to pave its way for future radicalism. The historic empathy gap within the GOP made extremism, timeless. After President Obama’s election, the GOP began a new chapter in governing… still on brand, just with new tactics: obstructionism, know-nothingism and unapologetic hatred. The media surely didn’t help matters either. When newspapers, pundits and magazines weren’t complicit, they were outright culpable in their nourishment of the Republican Party’s behavior. When the GOP began embracing the Tea Party (even electing many of its members) and fanning birtherism, the media would simply report it as if it were a standard, debatable assertion. When Republican lawmakers thwarted efforts to pass equal pay for women and refused even to entertain the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, news outlets found it more propitious to report these stories as defeats for Democrats. This led to segments and op-eds on why President Obama and the Democratic Party are incapable of “working with Republicans" to pass legislation. When the GOP worked to gut the Voting Rights Act and implement as many anti-voting laws as possible, the media spent more time covering riots and looting than it did covering the fact that Republicans pushing for voter I.D. were operating under false statistics. When the GOP began perpetuating myths about “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act, the media not only reported it without any scrutiny, journalists balked at the idea that they should. This attitude was illustrated by Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd when he went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2010, to say “It’s the President’s fault for not selling it (ACA)”. It was as if the media had zero responsibility in correcting misinformation perpetuated by Republicans. When President Obama and Democrats would invite GOP members to the negotiating table in good faith, Republicans RSVPd with a middle finger and the gall to position themselves to the American people as victims of tyranny, and guess who reported the latter as the real story? The media. As the press increasingly handled the truth as subjective, the goal of the Republican Party became clear: burn everything down until we win back the White House. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Heritage Foundation in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term”, it was clear the Republicans had decided to dedicate their efforts to disloyally oppose the administration. As the Tea Party flourished, even establishing an official congressional caucus, this style of governing is how some of its members made names for themselves. After the 2008 and 2012 elections, Republicans decided their problems weren't policy based but rather, messaged based. They didn't want to ditch the extremism; they just wanted to do a better job at selling it while never compromising on anything. While some Republicans objected, the majority went along for the ride and their base sanctioned the move.
The Republican Party has a modus operandi they have been operating on for a while. When Donald Trump says that pregnancy is an “inconvenience” to employers or that Rosie O’Donnell deserved to be called a “fat pig”, it should come as no surprise. Remember, the initial question Megyn Kelly asked Trump during the first GOP debate was precisely about this insult, and the audience rejoyced. Why did they cheer? Perhaps it was because they finally had a candidate who would resolutely stand up for the culture behind the party's legacy of discriminatory public policy. Trump's ideas aren't secrets but sooner are the driving force of his appeal. Republican voters have finally found a candidate who agrees with them. And through his success thus far, he has legitimized hatred and unveiled the shame of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia. Trump could never have gotten to this place if it weren't for a fitting promenade, anointed and smoothed for him to travel down. In this way, Donald Trump was perfect for the Republican Party because the Republican Party was perfect for Donald Trump.
The Donald’s ability to annihilate his sixteen opponents was a product of his fundamental and unapologetic adherence to Republican values. While not all Republicans are bigots, it’s no coincidence that voters who chose a bigot to represent the Republican Party were in fact, Republicans. Donald Trump is the Republican nominee because the GOP is the only party that would have him. The candidacies of his opponents highlight this chilling reality. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin championed union-busting and voter I.D. laws that targeted black and brown communities. Dr. Ben Carson said being gay was a “choice” that would pave the way towards legal pedophilia and bestiality. Senator Ted Cruz has said, “(in) The last 15 years, there has been no recorded (global) warming”. Even Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill outlawing state-funded rape crisis organizations from providing abortion references. While the list goes on with these candidates, what separated Donald Trump from the pack was his direct case to Republican voters that his opponents were phonies and imposters, too politically correct and not harsh enough on the issues to “get stuff done”. Trump cited his business and “deal-making” experience as his credentialed qualifications to make policy come to fruition. Trump’s entire argument was that he alone would be able to determine and enact policy that spoke to his voters and the Republican Party as a whole.
How anyone could buy the argument that Donald Trump’s rise to power was unpredictable or out of place within the context of the legacy of the modern GOP, is fatuous. The Republicans have been trying for years to push almost everything that Donald Trump is calling for, just in more covert ways. They have used dog whistles whereas Trump uses a bullhorn. The people like a bullhorn. Republican voters felt hopeful in supporting Trump over his opponents because through him; they were able to speak directly to their private desires and sentiments, no longer having to keep them quiet or pretend to feel like they don’t want to ban Muslims from America or deport Mexican immigrants. They didn't just vote for the man who happened to propose a Muslim-ban and a mass deportation force; they did so because of those proposals, and Republican establishment knows it, which makes the trove of Republicans withdrawing endorsements from Donald Trump, feckless and ironically, undemocratic. Republicans can unendorse Trump but why did they support him in the first place? If Trump’s strategy was successful (which it was), how could other Republicans have come to power within the ranks of the party without similar exploitations of their bases? If they represent the same populace as Trump, how does Donald Trump have 90% of Republican voter support? How is it compatible for millions of voters to support a prejudiced candidate because of his bigoted proposals while simultaneously supporting other Republican lawmakers who now oppose Trump because of those bigotries?
Are there millions of amnesiac Republican voters in America? Is this an anomalistic double standard of historic proportion? The GOP would have us think so, but I don't buy it. When Secretary Clinton described half of Trump’s supporters as being in the category of "a basket of deplorables”, she was almost correct. She has since apologized for that characterization, though she shouldn’t have. Her statement wasn’t morally wrong; it was factually wrong, given that she underestimated her statistic. The truth is that about 66% of Trump supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim, according to PPP. While Republican lawmakers may not like the way this makes them look, they don’t seem to mind appealing to these same voters in down-ballot elections. The most reasonable conclusion I can come to is that denouncing Trump is panicked posturing meant to salvage as many down-ballot candidates having to run in the same election as him.
I don’t buy the Republican outrage over his most recent, lewd comments caught on tape. I don’t buy the collective Republican epiphany that Donald Trump is an anathema, completely incongruent to Republicanism. Are we all to believe that suddenly Trump doesn’t represent Republican values because a piece of audio over a decade old revealed him saying vile things about women? Was it not vile when he said Rosie O’Donnell deserved to be called a “fat pig”? Was that not a vile comment about a woman? Was it not vile when he continued to assert that the Central Park 5 should be executed even though DNA evidence had exonerated them? Was it not vile when he attacked Heidi Cruz's looks? Or how about when he said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because was captured? What did the Republicans think of Trump’s harangues over the years, fanning the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States? Why didn't the GOP condemn this behavior? Perhaps the reason is that many of those same Republicans perpetuated the same racist lie about the President. Perhaps it's due in part to Republicans not understanding that rape is rape and "legitimate rape" is not a thing. Perhaps it has something to do with the systemic neglect and undermining of black America and its sovereignty from the poisoning of Flint, Michigan residents to discriminatory voter I.D. laws, all overseen and codified by Republican lawmakers. The picture is accurate, but the GOP is attempting to gaslight America with a historically revisionist defense mechanism that only makes Donald Trump’s point; Republicans have failed their base because of political correctness and a reluctance to embrace the hard-right policy that would purify the party.
Donald Trump has always been an Orwellian nightmare. He's made a career out of branding himself, priming him to successfully win the GOP nomination. Pretending Donald Trump isn’t the candidate Republican voters have waited for and been craving for some time is even more embarrassing than not defeating him. The GOP created this mayhem, and they will have to suffer the political consequences if we choose to hold them accountable. The election is in a month. The Republican Party is Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is the Republican Party, just more vulgar. This isn’t rocket science, its basic political science.